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Extremely competent, but a bit too familiar-sounding: Verdun's debut full-length.
France's Verdun have been going for around half a decade, in that time releasing a single EP/Demo before the subject of today's review 'The Eternal Drift's Canticles'. They seem to share their name with at least two other bands, so be wary when hunting them down on Spotify – I was stumped how they had gone from Black Metal to Oriental-tinged Gothic Metal (covering Classic Rock tracks no less!) to their current form before I realised that I wasn't listening to the same band.
As for their current form this Verdun are a thick 'n' heavy Sludge/Doom band. Whilst possibly lazy to describe a band in such a way, I think if you took YOB, deleted the high pitched wails, and mixed with one of Neurosis's more recent efforts, say 'Given to the Rising', you would have a pretty clear picture in mind of how this sounds.
The record starts in a pleasantly atmospheric way, with some harmonium playing some suitably foreboding tunes. Bonus points are gained here for the use of an actual harmonium and session player rather than the lazy approach of just sampling one! The mood is spoiled a little for me when the vocals first kick in, with a clean chanted style which I find quite grating – kind of like a sub-par Al Cisneros impression. Fortunately this style of vocal is not used for the majority of the record and the screams and growls found elsewhere on the album are executed in a much superior manner. Just a shame that the first vocals heard on the album are the weakest on offer.
Sonically, the record is right where it needs to be – totally crushing but completely clear. This should probably be expected, mixed and mastered as it is by the legendary Tad Doyle (TAD, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth). This is the kind of music that just doesn't work without the appropriate sound, but this has totally nailed it.
I think if you had played the 16 year old me this band I would have creamed my pants, mixing as they do most of my favourite bands from that period in YOB, Neurosis and even Godflesh at times. Over a decade later though, I am not so sure. It is extremely competently done, hitting all the right stylistic notes, sounds fantastic and reminds me of great bands who I love – but there is absolutely nothing about it that stands it apart from the bands it seeks to emulate. And whilst I find it enjoyable enough to listen to, I just can't see myself returning to it in future, as there just isn't anything here that I can't get elsewhere. It is however a solid effort that is worth checking out for fans of any of the aforementioned bands.